Letters to the Editor

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Army's agency needs

The Army has failed to convince Advertising Age that it should stick with a single prime contract and limit bidders to agencies or groups of substantial size ("Army erred in review rules," Viewpoint, AA, March 6). As someone who is no longer a part of the enterprise, I can perhaps be more plainspoken.

Over the course of 20 years in Army advertising management, it was my experience that agency professionals commonly came to the assignment discounting its uniqueness and underestimating the learning curve they faced.

Useful as these analogies can be, military recruiters are not really salesmen and military service is not a product. Moreover, we learned early on that not all treatments that work for recruiting will be tolerated by serving soldiers, influential veterans and the taxpaying public. The Army is a proud and traditional organization, and public funds are being spent.

Nor does the intricacy involve only advertising content and style. Failure to dot all the i's and cross all the t's in following sometimes burdensome contracting regulations can be damaging and costly. The Army needs a stable relationship with an agency team that will stay together long enough to learn the ropes, a team that can integrate diverse contributions -- including those which might originate in other shops -- into a coherent whole.

Coherence and strategic consistency are at least as important as creative brilliance. The Army will never have so much media presence that any of it should be wasted on a little of this and a little of that.

Thomas W. Evans

Mundelein, Ill.

Editor's note: Mr. Evans was U.S. Army Recruiting Command deputy director of advertising and public affairs from 1973 to 1993. In that post, he was Contracting Officer's Representative, which made him the civilian officially responsible for overseeing the agency and evaluating results.

Budget ad mocks valor

Budget Rent A Car is now airing spots about brainstorming ways to promote itself. "How about aromatherapy candles?" (Cut to limousine, all passengers snoring, jumping median into opposing traffic.) "No, maybe not."

"How about Mount Everest?" (Cut to hapless climber in howling blizzard, flanked by frozen corpses.) "No, maybe not."

I must take issue with this last. Mallory, the great climber, lost in 1924, was just found on Everest, an example, even in death, in the tatters of his tweeds, of the epic courage of his endeavor. The Victorians, it's been said, were embarrassed by the base; we are embarrassed by the noble. We are all of us catchpenny Glicks when we're making mock of valor.

Stephen Bergin

Waterbury, Conn.

Off-target on Coke ads

Bob Garfield is right-on in pointing out that Coca-Cola Co. is taking a giant step backwards with its "Enjoy" campaign ("Coke's giant step backwards cans superior `Always' theme," Ad Review, AA, Jan. 17). In fact, I've noticed other segments taking giant steps backwards recently, too: automotive design, fashion, architecture, and yes, even advertising, to name a few.

It's called "retro" and the ad biz should have been out in front on this long ago as many of us are scrambling to reclaim hard-won positions that were squandered when we lost the continuity in connecting with our customers.

Accusing Coke of "recklessly" dumping "Always" (if Coke knows anything it is how to spend money on research), dismissing "Enjoy" because it's a "POS-oriented" tag (why leverage your mass media with a relevant point-of-sale message?), complaining that the TV spots lack realism (a huge prerequisite for effective marketing -- if you're Dudley Moore) and claiming to be the omniscient arbiter of all that is youthful and contemporary (kind of like having Lawrence Welk review new music) sounds more like a sore stockholder than an objective ad reviewer.

Dave Woodall

Media Director

Smith Phillips DiPietro

Yakima, Wash.

Correction

* In "Subscribers set record pace for magazines" (March 13, P. 26), Audit Bureau of Circulations second-half 1999 single-copy sales for Hearst Magazines' Good Housekeeping were misstated. The correct ABC single-copy sales figure for GH is 1,171,906, down 6.3% from the year ago period. Also, second-half 1999 subscription sales for Newsweek were misstated. The correct figure is 2,956,078, down 1.3% from the year ago period

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